How can I develop products more flexibly by strengthening teams?

September 2006 Quick Tip

The last few Quick Tips have covered various technical means of increasing the ability of your product development to accommodate change, but the “Agile Manifesto” makes it clear that individuals and interactions — that is, teams — come before these more technical approaches. So what can you do to help your teams to respond to change faster?

One is to cultivate generalists who can switch roles quickly. There is a limit to how far you should go with this, but most organizations cultivate and reward specialists far too much at the expense of their generalists.

Another is to clarify — in advance — the areas of authority that the team has, so it has the power internally to make the most common kinds of changes, and it knows clearly when it must consult with management. I see a lot of wheel-spinning on such issues.

Co-location is an old topic and one that is increasingly difficult to accomplish in today’s global workplace, but there is no substitute for it when you need quick, accurate communication to change course quickly. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to gain much of the benefit of co-location even when most of your team is dispersed.

Finally, since communication is at the heart of flexible teams, make sure that your communication technologies are working for you. For instance, if email inhibits or slows communication, establish team concurrence on how you will use email to overcome your biggest problems with it, based on your team’s experience.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.